This post is about my recent experience at a ten day silent meditation retreat on the outskirts of Kathmandu. The course teaches the meditation discipline of Vipassana, which literally means ‘To see things as they really are.’ It is a method of gaining mastery over the mind, while coming to understand the source of our unhappiness and attachments. Attending one of these ten day courses (which are held all over the world, including the USA) is the only way to learn the technique properly. For me, the retreat was demanding and difficult at times, although extremely rewarding. I feel so very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn this beautiful approach, not only to meditation, but to life.
Vipassana meditation was rediscovered by Sidhartha Gautam, (The Buddha) about 2500 years ago in India after it had been lost for centuries. The technique is not Buddhist, however- it is completely universal, nonsecterian. Sidhartha had tried out many meditation techniques without achieving his goal, but Vipassana is the means by which he ultimately attained complete liberation.
Basically, the technique is all about objectively observing things that happen, inside or outside of your body, without reacting. The technique teaches one to slowly purify the mind through concentration and diligence, and ultimately one learns to see that all emotions, cravings, aversions, etc. are figments of our own mind. The source of our unhappiness is never external situations, that is, absolutely everything we experience is our OWN reactions! It’s mindblowing…
The course began with us taking a vow to adhere to the ‘five precepts’ for the duration of the retreat, which are: no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no telling lies and no intoxicants. We also took a vow of silence on the night before the first full day. This ‘noble silence’ prohibits not only speaking, but also communication of any kind (gestures, written notes, etc). It sounds difficult, but trust me, keeping silent was the easiest part of the retreat and actually felt quite natural. It doesn’t take long to recognize that speaking is utterly unnecessary in that type of environment- when everyone is fully turning inwards. In fact, on the tenth day when we were allowed to break the vow of silence, I was shocked to find that I was not even mentally ready to begin speaking. There was also a strict timetable for the ten days, starting with the 4am wake up bell the final meditation concluding at 9pm. Spread throughout the day we had 10.5 hours of meditation. My favorite part of each day was a 1.5 hour discourse, where the teacher S. N. Goenka spoke of the technique, and also discussed how to overcome our suffering in daily life. His insight was incredibly on-point and applicable to all situations imaginable.
I honestly feel at a loss to explain even a fraction of what I learned in the retreat, so I’ll stop trying. All I can say is that since the retreat concluded and I’ve continued practicing, I can feel the mindset seeping into my daily life. I feel more balanced and less reactive already… it really is astounding.
I’ll leave you with this- I find this technique to be AMAZING and I think it could absolutely change the world, one person at a time. If you have any interest whatsoever, the website is below and I strongly encourage every single one of you to at least CONSIDER giving up 10 days of your precious time to learn the tools to attain eternal happiness. Puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? It might sound intense, but this course is specifically for beginners and they really have designed it perfectly. If you have questions, contact me and I’ll be happy to tell you why and how this course would benefit you in particular. Seriously, you have nothing to lose.
OK, my sales pitch is over!My next post will tell you all about the second farm we have visited, Pioneer Agro Concern. We spent a week there already and are heading back tomorrow for another week since we loved it so much. Then it’s off to India for a quick one-week excursion to see the Dalai Lama give a teaching! Stay posted, and thanks so much for sharing with me in this adventure.